Proud Parents' Guide Helps Kids Play , Learn & Thrive


  1. Keep it fun: The most important element of youth sports is to have fun during practice, scrimmages and games. If kids are enjoying themselves, then they will most likely to continue to play sports, which will eventually lead to improvement and success.
  2. Make it positive: Use encouraging words and gestures when coaching children. Positive experiences will produce self-confidence and self-esteem in a young child’s life.
  3. Emphasize effort over results: Try to recognize effort over results in children through concentration, hustle and focus. Use words of praise to reinforce that good behavior.
  4. Define goals for individuals and a team objectives to gauge success: Give each child a personal goal to strive for in sports play. Also identify a team plan as a measuring stick for success. Remember, the score does not tell the whole story.
  5. Allow kids to play as kids: Create a pressure-free zone for kids to feel free to explore their athletic talent. Avoid criticism and end each competition with the phrase, “Did you have fun today?” as opposed to, “ Did you win?”
  6. Cheer (not coach) from the sidelines: Parents try limit your vocal support to words of praise and encouragement for your athlete and the team. Avoid shouting any comment that feels like instruction or coaching tip.
  7. Teach your athlete how to develop positive self-talk: The inner voice that lives inside your child’s head during competition should sound like this: “I can do this.” “I am the kind of player who makes it happen under pressure.”
  8. Encourage independent thinking: Allow your child to make decisions on the playing field or court without outside parental or coaching intervention.
  9. Consistent practice builds confidence: Try to keep your athlete on a consistent practice schedule that will allow for the gradual building of fundamental skills.
  10. Understand the learning curve: Athletic skills take years to develop so be patient during the process. Celebrate each small success along the way.

The Great Sports-Science Debate:

Should Parents Screen Kids for Olympic Potential at Birth?

        If you could buy a simple genetic test to determine if your child had the Olympic-quality sports genes, would you? Or better yet, should you? A great ethical debate is brewing between science and the worldwide sports community because early detection for athletic talent could definitely be an advantage for many children.

        Atlas Sports Genetics is offering parents a $149 test that could possibly predict a child’s natural athletic tendencies for strength, quickness, speed, endurance and power by identifying a specific DNA gene called ACTN3. The non-invasive procedure is done by swabbing the inside of a child’s cheek near the gum area for DNA material. The sample is returned to the lab for analysis, and the results are obtained in a few weeks.

     The question remains, however, should the test results alter a parent’s method of raising children? Meaning the children who test positive will receive a lot attention and coaching, while those missing the sports gene could be redirected to pursue other talents.

      “Many times it is not the most talented kids that rise to the top of any field, but the most determined and hard working individuals who also have a moderate degree of ability,” says parenting expert and author Karen Ronney.“There is much to be said for having the eart of a champion” In Proud Parents’ Guide to Raising Athletic, Balanced, and Coordinated Kids, Ronney suggests making assumptions about a child’s future based on genetics can be a disservice to many. "

     Other critical factors to success in athletics include focus, desire, determination, work ethic, opportunity, family support, a positive mental attitude and a balanced childhood.

      Perhaps the best course of action is to give all children early exposure to fitness activities and fine and gross motor skills. The more mental, physical and emotional stimulation that a child receives in the first six years of life, the greater chance for success to be realized in all of life’s pursuits.

       “It’s true that kids who start ahead will stay ahead, but in most cases it is impossible to predetermine which kids will end up at the finish line first,” Ronney said. “I think it is far better to create a generation of multi-talented kids, as opposed to focusing only on a few individuals with the right genetic stuff.”


Karen Ronney Appears on FOX & FRIENDS National News Debate: Genetic Testing Kids for the Sports Gene

December 2008: New York: Coach Karen, an expert in parenting and coaching kids, was asked to participate on a live FOX NEWS debate on FOX & FRIENDS to discuss the ethics of genetic sports testiing kids for the sports gene.

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For the full story and genetic testing, click on For Parents.